Eat Organic on a Budget
A Conversation With Sheila Cole
UPdate Winter 2001


Question:  I know eating organic food is suppossed to be good for you, but its so expensive.  Is it really worth it?

Sheila Cole, health educator, responds:
     Eating organically is an important way to achieve vital health since it helps to build immunity and increases strength.  A diet rich in pure food, in combination with pure air and water also promotes faster recovery if one is healing from a chronic condition.

      Most of our common foods are grown using chemicalized agricultural methods.  These foods also contain further impurities such as antibiotics, steriods, dyes, preservatives and other chemical additives.  These detract from the purity of the
food.  They put extra demands on the immune system, overload the body's detoxification pathways and stress organs such as the liver and kidneys which are responsible for processing and eliminating undesirable substances.  Needless to say, it is more diffficult for the  body to extract nutrients from foods that contain synthetic chemicals.  Processing and packaging of foods further reduces nutritional values.  

       People with health problems need foods that are as fresh and free of impurities as possible in order to get the maximum food value to rebuild their bodies.

       Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are used in abundance to grow our fruit, grains and vegetables.  These chemical substances often penetrate to the core of the food and cannot be removed just by washing and peeling.  A tomato crop, for
instance, may be sprayed as many as thirty times in a growing season.  Apples are routinely sprayed up to fifteen times from blossom to harvest and pesticide residues can be measured even in apple juice and apple sauce.  More presticides and
fungicides are sprayed on the food to "protect" it during shipment and to extend shelf life. Sulfites are often added to preserve freshness.  For this reason, it is often preferable to eat locally grown foods.

       Ideally, everything we eat should be organic.  But one of the barriers is cost.  As a bare minimum, one should consider choosing potatoes, carrots, apples and other such basics that may be consumed in volume.  

       At farmer's markets one can usually find a good variety of organic fruits and vegetables in season.  It is worth freezing and canning them when possible.  Some people share from their own gardens (the best way to ensure the purity of your food
supply).  Others get delivery from organic food cooperatives.  These days most supermarkets have an organic section and some items are comparable in price to those in the non-organic section.  It is definitely worth taking the time to compare prices and to let the store manager know how important this service is to you.

       Most health food stores have a full range of organically grown grains, beans and flours which are a good value.  Many people with food sensitivities find that foods they commonly react to are more easily tolerated when they are organically

       Increasingly, organically raised meats and poultry are available.  These are great because they are free of antibiotics and steroids and the animals have been fed organic grains and have enjoyed freedom of movement.  These meats are usually
substantially more expensive but are worth the investment because of the absence of all these additives and impurities.  Their value can be stretched by cooking them in soups and stews.  

       If you are a coffee fiend, buying organic is advised since it is a heavily sprayed crop.  It is important to inform yourself about how foods are grown and then make your choices accordingly.  For example, you may decide to avoid a favourite food,
such as grapes.  I love them but do not buy them because they are so chemically treated and organic grapes are tremendously expensive.  

       Vegetables and fruits from other countries often contain pesticides that are banned in Canada.... not that our record is particularly stellar! Organic foods, regardless of where they are grown, have to meet strict standards.  In addition to being free of pesticides, they are not genetically modified, which is a growing concern to many people.  

       In essence, one should choose at least the core part of the diet from organic sources.  Make it a priority to prepare fresh, organically grown foods instead of resorting to prepared and packaged foods from the supermarket.  If you must use
packaged foods, buy ones that contain organic ingredients and are preservative free.  Remember the wonderful saying, "Let food be your medecine."  Buying organically grown, non-processed food is actually an investment in your health and well being.  It may save you and society many health care dollars in the future.  


Sheila Cole is an environmentalist and an environment and health educator.